Leather dress shoes are a menswear staple, and it’s a good idea to have multiple colors. Some outfits all but require black shoes, but sometimes, you need a more earthy hue, like brown or tan. If you own a pair of brown dress shoes or are thinking about getting some but aren’t totally sure how to style them, you’ve come to the right place.
At Vionic, we’re seasoned in all types of comfortable dress shoes for men, and we know just how to wear brown dress shoes. Keep reading for our best style tips and advice, including the dos and don’ts of rocking a pair of chestnut, chocolate, espresso, or mahogany-colored kicks.
How to Wear Brown Dress Shoes
When it comes to formal, semi-formal, and even business casual menswear, there seem to be a lot of rules, and footwear is no exception. You may have heard the sayings, “No brown in town,” or “No brown after six o’clock,” which imply that men shouldn’t wear brown shoes into town or after 6 p.m. The good news is that these ideas are wildly outdated—even more outdated than the warning to not wear white after labor day.
So, if those aren’t the rules to follow for brown shoes, then what are they? There are no official rules of fashion. And yet, there are certainly some unwritten principles many people feel very strongly about. As a result, even the most fashion-savvy guys can be left scratching their heads when trying to put together an outfit for a dressy function.
If you’re wondering how to wear dress shoes in a brown or brown-adjacent color, Vionic has your back. It’s not actually that complicated, as long as you follow a few basic guidelines. After reviewing these eight style tips, you’ll have a solid understanding of how to style brown leather shoes.
1. Know Your Shoe Styles
To fully grasp how to wear brown dress shoes, you should first know the different types of dress shoes for men. The main styles include loafers, oxfords, monk strap shoes, derby shoes, driving moccasins, and dress boots. Each of these styles typically comes in leather or suede and can be dressed up or down.
Vionic carries an impressive selection of men’s dress shoes in a variety of brown shades. Every pair presents a handsome and sophisticated appeal, with podiatrist-designed orthopedic support and stability hidden within the soles.
2. Consider the Occasion
The next thing to consider when curating an outfit with brown dress shoes is the occasion. While a black dress shoe typically gives off a distinctly formal vibe, brown footwear is not usually as obvious. For this reason, brown shoes are actually more versatile than black, as they can be worn to both formal and not-so-formal events.
We probably don’t need to tell you that brown leather shoes are a definite no-go for funerals and black-tie functions. So, where can you wear a brown dress shoe?
Brown dress shoes are acceptable for:
- The office
- Business meetings
- Job interviews
- Networking events
- Office parties
- Formal dinners
- Happy hours
- Lunch meetings
With that said, the specific occasion can help you decide on the rest of your outfit. For instance, if you’re heading to a wedding, an important business meeting, or a job interview, you may want to wear a suit. Since some weddings and business environments are more formal than others, you should also take that into consideration when choosing between a casual, business, or formal suit.
For a regular day at the office, happy hour, or a date, you can take it down a notch and go with business casual attire, like slacks and an oxford shirt. You can also wear deep indigo blue jeans, dressier shorts styles, button-down shirts, polos, crewneck sweaters, and basic knits with brown dress shoes.
3. Opt for Other Earth Tones
Black is a stark, no-nonsense color, whereas brown is a bit more flexible. Brown is an earth tone—quite literally the color of the ground—and the best way to style brown dress shoes is with other earth tones. But aside from brown, what colors are earth tones?
Earth tone colors include:
- Forest green
Essentially, you’re going for a somewhat warm and natural color palette. Although they aren’t technically earth tones, brown dress shoes can also be worn with almost any shade of blue, gray, and white. A navy suit, medium blue suit, light gray suit, or even a charcoal suit can work with brown shoes.
4. Implement Brown Details
Although monochrome suits are having a moment (shirts and ties in the same shade as the pants and jacket), with most ensembles, you don’t want to be too “matchy-matchy.” Having said that, we still recommend implementing some brown details into your outfit.
For example, you may want to wear a brown leather belt, tie, watchband, dress socks, or patterned socks with brown detailing. If you’re on-the-go, a brown messenger bag, briefcase, or sunglasses can complement your shoes. Bear in mind that the browns don’t need to match exactly. A dark brown belt or wristwatch can definitely work with medium brown footwear.
5. Don’t Mix Brown & Black
If there’s any rule for wearing brown dress shoes, it’s that you shouldn’t mix them with black. While there are some rare exceptions, it’s best to avoid it altogether. This means black suits, belts, socks, pants, shirts, coats, and ties are off-limits when you’re sporting brown footwear.
But as we mentioned, you’re not restricted to the exact brown shade of your shoes. A lighter or darker brown belt and other brown hues are totally acceptable.
6. Select Coordinating Separates
Coordinating separates means wearing dress pants and a suit jacket that aren’t technically part of one suit but that complement each other. It’s an acceptable semi-formal ensemble choice, and it’s an excellent way to ensure you don’t look overdressed. Best of all, brown dress shoes are ideal for coordinating separates.
For instance, you might wear khaki-colored trousers with a navy blazer and chestnut loafers. Or you could wear tan pants with a burgundy sportcoat and chocolate-brown derby shoes. During the winter, you might go for olive trousers, a light brown tweed jacket, and dark brown Chelsea boots.
7. Remember: Chinos Are a Brown Leather Shoe’s Best Friend
When in doubt, remember that chinos and brown dress shoes can almost always be worn together—as long as the colors don’t clash. Originating from U.S. military uniforms, chinos are a popular and versatile type of men’s pants. They’re usually 100% cotton with a slim yet slightly relaxed fit. Chinos are more dressy than jeans but not as formal as dress pants or suit pants.
Similar to brown leather shoes, you can dress chinos up or down, as they’re a perfect balance of laid back and dapper. Also, this men’s pant style comes in virtually every color, including all the earthy hues we mentioned above. You can wear an oxford shirt, casual button-down, polo, or even a basic cotton tee with chinos and pretty much any style of brown leather dress shoes. For outerwear, a blazer or sports jacket will pull the look together.
8. Know Your Shades
The last thing that can help you style brown dress shoes is to know your shades. While this isn’t exactly set in stone, darker browns tend to be more formal than lighter shades, like tan, taupe, and chestnut. So, if you’re going to a fancy wedding or another formal event, you may want to opt for deeper brown, like mahogany.
On the other hand, if you want to look put-together but not overdressed, camel or medium brown leather shoes are a great pick. Of course, your preferences shouldn’t be overlooked. If you’re not a fan of dark brown leather but appreciate the look of warm tan shoes, by all means, go for the style you like. You can always tweak the rest of your outfit to align with the occasion.
Brown Dress Shoes for Men from Vionic
Styles are constantly evolving, and it’s nearly impossible to keep up with all the trends and “rules” of fashion. But now that you’ve brushed up on your brown footwear knowledge, you should have a pretty good idea of how to wear dress shoes.
At Vionic, we believe footwear should be more than just fashionable. To look and feel your best from head to toe, comfortable shoes for men are really non-negotiable. When you shop our collection of men’s dress shoes, you’ll find a wide range of brown loafers, derby shoes, oxfords, monk strap shoes, driving mocs, Chelsea boots, and Chukka boots. Each genuine leather style is embedded with Vio-Motion Support technology, meaning that three-zone comfort, in the form of stability, arch support, and cushioning, is hidden within the shoe. No matter what style of dress shoe you choose, you’re sure to find the best orthopedic shoes for men.
Check out the men’s dress shoes from Vionic and try out a pair that stands out to you.